England recap, Day 3.

The alarm seemed to be timed better this morning and I was bright eyed and bushy tailed for my second day on Mark Glencorse’s Rapid response Car in Newcastle.  The coffee was ready when I got out of the shower and I watched a bit of news while getting ready.  When I was in England a frightening wave of flooding was literally washing away parts of the western side of the country and numerous Fire and Rescue resources had been mobilized.   It was a topic of conversation in passing throughout the morning with the Vehicle (ambulance) crews we saw and hospital staff we talked to.

The check out on the car was much quicker since my first day orientation and away we went to our first post.  On the way Mark asked if I was hungry and I had to remind him I don’t often eat breakfast.  In the back of my mind was another McDonald’s run but in the front of Mark’s was taking my for a proper Geordie breakfast.  The term Geordie refers to the people or speech from the Tyneside region of England, which is where Mark is from and where we were.  Similar to referring to someone as a Lonestar or Southerner here in the US, a dialect of speech and set of stereotypes is set into your mind.

The car weaved through the light morning traffic to a take away trailer in a light industrial park.  The aroma from this man’s trailer was like heaven.  The odor of bacon, along with other smells, changed my long standing no breakfast clause and my mouth was watering.

As with many of our other adventures this day, Mark in the car had folks wondering where the emergency was.  No one thought he was the Police coming to get him…until they saw me in my navy blue.  When Mark ordered my meal and the fellows standing nearby read the back of my jacket, which said “Firefighter/Paramedic SFFD” they were curious to ask all the questions we’ve been asking each other for months.

“Is it true you have to pay to go to the Doctor?” “yes.”

“If you can’t pay do they send you away?” “No, you get a bill later.”

“What about an ambulance? Is it true you’ll leave me to die if I can’t pay?” “No, we’ll help you out no matter.”

It was a great conversation with locals about their neighborhood and town.  Keep in mind this town has been here more or less FOREVER.  It’s not like some guy wandered through 200 years ago and started a farm.  There are castles and churches still standing despite centuries of wars.

It was in the middle of a talk about a nearby castle that my breakfast was ready.  Mark’s smile widened as he handed me what can only be described as heaven with a side of LAD.

Bun, mushrooms, brown sauce, black pudding, eggs, sausage, bacon and it was glorious!  Along with a true cup of coffee and some good conversation it was a wonderful way to start the morning.

But like so many things on this job, wouldn’t you know it a motor vehicle accident has been reported just a few blocks away.  Chomp, gulp, a thanks and away we go to the 2 car accident.  There was an initial need for extrication so Mark called in the Brigade.

The ambulance arrived quickly, as did the brigade and everyone went to work doing their pre-determined roles.  It was refreshing to see firefighters not distracted by assisting with patient care, but simply having a task and seeing to it that it was done.  This scene was more what I was used to.  Ambulance, fire engines, police, a proper job.  Although the injuries minor and the damage to match, the resources in the community worked seamlessly together to get the job done.  After the patient was transported I had a quick talk with the firefighters about their roles and responsibilities on this assignment, since there was not the usual bickering or fighting for the glory of the jaws that I have seen all throughout my career.  The firefighter assigned to cribbing was working just as carefully and quickly as the two sets, yes I said two sets, of hydrolics that were being prepared.  We discussed my role as dual trained and they gave a polite smile.  I think just below that was two distinct thoughts.  First, “That’ll never happen here” and the competing, “Oh God, what if they do that here?”

My photographer for the day obliged for a photo of the brigade that responded drawing my caption, “One of these fireman is not like the other…”

After a couple more jobs we were released from our roll area and directed north to the Arsenal/Sunderland football match.  The trip started as a chance to show a lifelong soccer fan a proper football match in his adopted country, but it would turn out to be an EMS learning experience.

But first, Mark had something special planned for me.  We grabbed our sack dinner, lovingly prepared by Mrs999, and hit the road to see the proper section of the old Roman Wall I was so interested in.  The drive through the countryside was amazing.  Rolling green hills hiding in the fog, unchanged since ancient times, save for the occasional 200 year old farmhouse with it’s trailing smoke from the chimney proving someone still inside.  The park rangers (or the UK equivalent) came out of their warm office to meet us when the RRC pulled up and we got out.  They wondered if a hiker had been hurt on the wall, why else would the ambulance be there on a foggy, rainy afternoon?

After a climb and a brief hike I was able to take some video and one of my favorite pictures from this adventure.  smallerThen I got to do what my Grandmother never did, stand on Hadrian’s Wall, where her hero Arthur may once have stood.  There was a connection with that place I can’t really describe.  I have the book she was reading when she died, Stories of King Arthur, a book she received as a child from her grandmother and I display it proudly in my living room, bookmark still in place and soon a photo of this part of the wall will accompany it.

It was an experience I hope to share with my young girls when they are old enough to appreciate what the wall means to the family.  Folks have been known to walk the whole length, camping as they go, and I plan to do the same in good time.

And now for something completely different.  If you’ve made it this far, I thank you.  Like Mark has said, so much happened on this trip, so many interesting and exciting things we shared with each other and with all of you, these day by day accounts are long winded.  If you skipped this far to read about Event EMS you are truly a Fire and EMS nerd and I salute you for that.

The Sunderland stadium can hold, at capacity for a football match, 45,000 impassioned fans.  The perception of many of you in the US may be “Soccer Hooligan” and the stereotpye is fitting in many cases when it comes to premier league football.  I was treated to not only the game, but a tour of the medical facilities made available for players and fans alike.

The stadium has an impressive command center encompassing the EMS team co-ordinator, Fire safety specialist, CCTV team and the police commander, all in two large rooms.  From this unified command center a response can be co-ordinated and a plan followed by radio.  The CCTV cameras also allow the leader to call in extra security if it appears an EMS fly team has unrest around them.  Help can be on the way before they even notice what is happening.  There were 4 teams on staff, dispersed around the stadium with assigned seats and radios, ready to respond as well as 2 pitch or field teams ready to respond to an injured player or person on the ground level.

Behind the scenes are two levels of care.  The teams have physicians on staff to deal with injuries to their people and outside the stadium, tucked in with the snacks and beverages are a number of doors marked First Aid.  Behind these doors are the service I know little about from my travels there, St John Ambulance.  (Not St John’S ambulance, St John.  I learned that one real quick.)  In these almost clinic areas are basic care givers, EMT’s, Paramedics, RNs and an entire medical community, all volunteering to help out.  While Mark and I sought refuge there to eat our dinner before the game, a woman came in, was assessed, treated, medicated and released, all in the span of 10 minutes, all by the St John staff.  It all happened before I could finish my Dr Pepper.

Upstairs in the control center I had a chance to peek at the emergency response plan and these guys have it all figured out.  I learned later that a number of previous events led to a mandate that each stadium have an action plan and the resources in place to react to those emergencies.  We also talked about rotating the teams if more than 1 fly team was mobilized, the extent of the St John involvement, their ability to staff a team and a number of other things most laymen would have fallen asleep thinking about.

The match was brilliant.  We stood just outside the command center, which was near the visitor’s seats.  Arsenal fans are passionate fans.  When I applauded a good play, which is common in this sport, Mark grabbed my hands just as one of the visiting supporters turned to see who was clapping.  Just what I need 4,000 pissed off drunk football fans chasing the American who clapped because the home team goal keeper made a nice save.  Tragedy averted.  And good too, because we were heading out on the town later.

We’re meeting Mrs999 and Fiona for a night on the local scene to give me an idea what Geordies do when the sun goes down.  Well, a while after the sun goes down.  OK, late at night.  I was treated to some local color and had a chance to talk to Mrs999 and Fiona about the person I was shadowing this week.  We talked, danced, twittered and had a wonderful time.  Mark loved his new iphone, since the old one died in San Francisco and at one point he fell asleep updating all the Chronicles of EMS followers.  OK, not really, but it made for a fun twitter update.

As the evening continued on the famous Millennium bridge over the river Tyne, I had a chance to reflect on where I was and why.  It was a big deal to be where I was, with Mark and the NEAS, learning how to deliver care in the front loaded model.  We should have called it a night there, but we had one more stop.

Bachelor and bachelorette parties in Geordie country take themed dressing to the extreme.  In Las Vegas, the girls may dress in pink shirts with the bride to be in some kind of white head dress and veil, letting all the single guys know exactly what she is celebrating.  But here, the entire group dressed to match.  There was a group of guys dressed as 20’s gangsters, pinstriped suits and fedoras.  Why? Stag party.  Groups of girls wearing matching tight shirts all wishing their engaged friend luck in cleverly worded phrases on the front. Why? Bachelorette party.  In came a group of girls wearing black and their names on he back of their shirts.  One of them we know.  Steph Frolin is the name my co-workers use to alert me to a scene that is not what it seems.  Imagine we are investigating a person who says they just came in from a terrible car crash.  As I’m assessing them my partner discovers witnesses in the next room who can confirm no such thing ever happened.  They will refer to me by my BS name: Steph (Pronounced Steve) Frolin.  as in “hey Steph, can you have her describe the car again?” Now I know something has changed and that I need to speak to the partner ASAP.

So Mark turned on his ambulance charm and talked the poor girl into standing with the only guy wearing a jacket for some reason involving an American and a blog.  No doubt she has erased this moment from her own memory.

As I mentioned earlier, we should have cut the evening short at the bridge.  The jet lag, the drink, Mark’s dancing, a long day and an early alarm clock would spell disaster early the next morning for our last day on the car.

Taking it easy on the drink is a suggestion that carries through all situations and this one is no different.  Not that I went to excess this night, no where close, but the combination of the time change, new diet and excitement of the Project would lead Mark to getting me off the streets the next morning.  And I’m glad he did.  Details on my nap next time.

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